Post-NHL Draft Cost-Cutting Trade Candidates
Chris Kreider and Nikita Zaitsev are players who could be cost cutting trade candidates by the teams

Leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft weekend there was considerable speculation over which established NHL players could be traded.

Three major deals took place. The Nashville Predators shipped defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils. The Toronto Maple Leafs sent left winger Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning traded forward J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks.

All were cost-cutting moves. With the salary cap for next season ($81.5 million) lower than projected, there could be more salary-shedding trades this summer.

With the draft weekend over, here’s a look at several players who could become trade candidates.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

After acquiring defenseman Jacob Trouba last week, the Rangers could be spending over $7.5 million annually to re-sign the restricted free agent. There’s also speculation they could get pursue Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin via free agency on July 1. That’s generated talk of trading Kreider and his $4.625-million salary-cap hit.

Kreider, 28, is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. The New York Post‘s Larry Brooks believes it could cost over $6.75 million annually to re-sign him. While an anticipated draft weekend trade didn’t materialize, the Rangers could try moving him this week. NBC Sports’ Joe Haggerty believes the Boston Bruins could have interest in Kreider.

Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg Jets

After the Jets shipped Trouba to the Rangers, the Winnipeg Sun‘s Ken Wiebe suggested more moves could be in the offing. He pointed out there’s plenty of recent trade buzz involving Ehlers. One rumor claimed the Jets offered the 23-year-old left winger to the Carolina Hurricanes for a defenseman.

Ehlers carries a $6-million annual average value through 2024-25. Wiebe speculates the Jets may have targeted Brett Pesce ($4.025 million through 2023-14), representing nearly $2 million in cap savings. With restricted free agent forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor up for big raises, creating extra cap space while finding a decent replacement for Trouba would be tempting.

Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs

The 26-year-old defenseman requested a trade nearly a month ago. He’s figure prominently in the rumor mill ever since. Cap Friendly indicates he’s signed through 2023-24 with an annual average value of $4.5 million. His modified no-trade clause kicks in on July 1.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has tried to accommodate Zaitsev’s request but hasn’t found much interest. Conjecture linking the blueliner to the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks has cooled of late. Because the Leafs need to free up cap space, Dubas won’t stop trying to move Zaitsev.

Colin Miller, Vegas Golden Knights

With over $83 million invested in 19 players, the Golden Knights are above the $81.5-million cap. That’ll jump to over $87 million once William Karlsson‘s new deal is confirmed. The Athletic’s Jesse Granger believes a salary-dumping deal could be coming soon. Miller is among his suggested trade candidates.

In recent weeks, the 26-year-old defenseman has frequently surfaced in the rumor mill. He’s signed through 2021-22 with a salary-cap hit of $3.875 million. Teams seeking an affordable right-shot blueliner could give Miller serious consideration.

Brenden Dillon, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks already traded away a defenseman by sending Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyer last week for two draft picks. On Saturday, the Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch reported they’re shopping Dillon. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz confirmed the report.

Dillon, 28, is a physical blueliner whose style of play should attract interest from clubs looking for defensive grit. Shedding his $3.27-million cap hit for next season would provide the Sharks with additional dollars to re-sign captain Joe Pavelski.